[Intro Music Playing]
Chris DeMars: What is up Boils and Ghouls and welcome to another episode of Tales From The Script. I’m your host Chris DeMars and today I have an amazing guest with me. Jen [deep breath] “Knit coding monkey” Luker, what’s going on Jen?
Jen Luker: I’m doing pretty well, how are you?
CD: I’m doing good. How are things? How’s quilting?
JL: Quilting. Oh quilting is always fun. Kind of taking a break from the knitting which is kind of scary in order to make a pile of quilts so knitting will happen soon.
CD: Ooh, that sounds like a lot of fun. I never got into––my Grandma taught me how to crochet when I was really little, but like, and it’s like simple, like one chain at a time type things but umm––cool, yeah. So for our guests that might not know about you, who you are, what you do, give us a little rundown.
JL: I am Jen Luker. I’m “knit code monkey” on Twitter and GitHub. I work for a company called, Gremlin. Which is essentially chaos as a service. Most of my career has been in either PHP or React, I got into that way, way early on into the React lifecycle. I focus heavily on accessibility as well as imposter syndrome and whatever else I can find interesting.
CD: Nice. Nice. Well today, Jen and I are going to be talking about coding accessible careers. Now, you and I have worked on an accessibility thing or two. Yeah. Thing or two. One being RxJS docs. So what is your backstory on getting into accessibility?
JL: Ooh, my backstory is much, much longer than my coding history. Essentially I’m a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult) kid, so my mom is deaf, or mostly deaf and I was also raised with a terminally ill sister, so through their experiences I watched them struggle with the birth of the internet, through things as simple as going to a movie theatre, to going to school in a car and getting made fun of, to, you know, trying to maneuver around doors. As far as my web accessibility goes, it started off about four-ish years ago I went to React Rally and I saw Marcy Sutton who was speaking on accessibility and it was one of those lightning moments where I realized that this was something that people didn’t necessarily know about.
Which kind of blew my mind for a minute just because it’s been such the center focus of trying to make sure my family could use “the web”. That it really sparked that interest in me to really dig deep and try to share that as much as possible because in the end I’m only one person, I can only control the websites I have access to, but if I can inspire others to care about it, to look at it, to think about it, then I’m hopefully affecting a lot wider base. I’m able to help the web become a more accessible place.
CD: That’s good. I always kind of revert to that too, like people as me like, what––why do you care about accessibility so much? What made you get into it? And I… the two things that, and you brought them up, you defaulted to you grew up in a lifestyle like that, right. My mom is a big reason as to why I care so much about accessibility because she has different types of disabilities. She still has a flip phone. Like, if I would have put a, if I put a smartphone in her hand she would not have a single clue what to do, you know what I mean?
She comes from using a typewriter, she’s never actually used a computer to type anything so––she’s a big reason as to why and Marcy’s another big reason, you know. I got into it by watching Marcy give talks on accessibility and she’s a good friend of mine and she kind of pushed me into, into that direction, so between a mix of Marcy and my mom, that’s also the reason why I care so much about it.
So, speaking of why we care so much and why it’s important, why do you think accessibility on the web is important? It should be talked about more.
JL: At this point the web runs the world. You, apply for jobs on the web, a lot of jobs are just on the web, you––order food, you––find resources. You don’t really have the Yellow Pages anymore. So just to interact with this world you either––use the web, or you kind of fumble around and do the best you can without it.
So if the web itself is not accessible, it’s inhibiting, your ability to not only navigate, find directions, discover new places, restaurants and find a job, it’s also limiting your ability to communicate with the world, so much more communication now is international and over things like podcasts and Zoom and you know, all of those connections so––ninety percent of our world is dictated by technology, you know, and as I have heard it said before––if, you can’t access that technology, if that technology isn’t written for you, then what’s the point if your app is fast?
CD: I agree with that. I definitely agree with that. You know there the, the founders of what we, what we do today, like history is a huge, huge thing for me. Especially history on the web. But the founders that laid the way for us, you know, they… I.. I just can’t but think they just shake their heads at like, the web... has... gone and how broken the web is.
I just recorded a podcast this morning talking about accessibility, I guest, I guest spotted on this podcast this morning and we talked about accessibility and talked about like the barriers and why it’s important for our companies to give a shit and how you get stakeholders and other devs to buy into this, and frankly the web is broken and this was not the way the web was supposed to be but it’s, it’s a different time, it’s a different, you know, day and age and stuff like that so.
It’s definitely, it’s definitely shifted but with that being said, [clears throat] and it could be shifting for the better, it could be shifting for, for worse, you know, with the advent of frameworks and stuff like that and libraries it makes it more difficult, a lot more work we have to put in. Which is fine but with that being said, you, are you seeing a trend where more people with disabilities or impairments are getting involved in web and software in any capacity whatsoever?